I remember back in 2004 stepping foot into the theater by my house to sit down and watch The Stepford Wives. The details have escaped me over the years, but ever since then I became intrigued to read Ira Levin’s book by the same name. My interest in viewing the 1975 film hasn’t wavered since either. Cut to almost fourteen years later and Book Bub informing me that Psycho was on sale. This lead me down a rabbit hole of purchasing other famous novels for the same reason. Until a couple of weeks ago, my e-book sat patiently on my Kindle waiting for download. As patient as the book was waiting for me, I quickly became impatient with the lack of time I had to read once I started the novel.
The Stepford Wives follows Joanna Eberhart’s move to Stepford, Connecticut with her husband and two children. A feminist at her core, she becomes determined to find a balance between her housework and her photography. She knows this might take a while, but she obtains the help of her husband when the going gets rough. As time goes on within the town, she notices that she is one of the few independent women. Every other woman in town seems completely complacent with the idea of playing the happy house wives. There are no other interests than what wax is better to shine the floor with before the upcoming dinner party. As the weeks go on, Joanna soon begins to wonder if the men of Stepford have something to do with the women’s docile nature.
And now I should apologize for the slight spoilers from this point forward.
The odd part about reading The Stepford Wives is that I knew the premise behind book, which does not end the same way as the 2004 remake, but more like the is more like the original feature instead. Yet there I was reading the book and wanting to yell at the women. I wanted to warn them. I wanted to advise them that any and all fears they had were valid and to run as far away from Stepford as humanly possible. These women needed to know to get out while they still could. I did not want to see a single female character in this book die. Yet I continued to read knowing that was their fate.
The thought of this story is completely terrifying. I cannot fathom living my life to the fullest one day and transforming into someone who has no interests outside of making sure my house is spick-and-span. What makes this worse is that the men in this town conceived this notion. They developed an idea that they would rather have someone do their bidding for them instead of someone who challenges them. In many ways they want a true yes man, except in the bedroom. In the bedroom they want a woman who will give into their wildest desires as often as possible.
Maybe this idea is simply appalling because I have always viewed a marriage as a give and take of both spouses. Partners will drive each other crazy. Some of the little things that were not annoying when a couple meets become annoying over time. However, sometimes those little annoying things about someone will make a person fall in love all over again. Those details are worth something in the end. The individuality of each person is worth the struggles in the end. These character traits are what makes us all unique. Besides, who wants someone perfect in their lives? And more importantly, what makes a person perfect in a relationship?
All the small details within the book lends themselves to a truly horrific outcome. They are absolutely beautiful and breathtaking to read. By creating such strong female characters, Levin depicts a hysteria among the men within the Stepford community. Their desire to keep the women in their place so they remain on top of the hierarchy is all that matters. Their words do not matter. Men’s opinions are the only opinions that matter. And the idea of squashing the outspoken nature of all these women become a goal. Creating a better life for the men within the community spreads and more men are on board.
Ultimately, there is one question the reader needs to ask by the end of The Stepford Wives. Is this the better way? While I would say no, I am not naive enough to believe that there are men out there who believe in the ways of Stepford. A woman’s place is in the home. She should take care of her family and her home and that’s it. The fact of the matter is The Stepford Wives reminded me how important a woman’s role is within society. We can do whatever we want to do and whatever we set our mind to do. We must fight for what we believe in. And more importantly, we cannot give up until battles make walls crumble down. After all, we are not robots.